How did you get into ownership?
I’ve been going racing since I was young and I got into ownership through acquiring shares in the Supreme Horse Racing club. The club has a tightly organised share system that allows you to join at whatever level suits your pocket.
I’m from Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, the territory of the late Oliver Brady, and now I am also involved with a syndicate run by Anthony McCann who has taken over the yard. Guess what the syndicate is called – the Ballybayfordrinkintae Syndicate!
What was your best day at the races?
I have a share in a horse with the Supreme Horse Racing club, Aramon, a five-year-old by Monsun and since he came to Willie’s he won at Kilbeggan in August, was just beaten into second at Listowel. About two weeks ago, he won comfortably in a novice hurdle at Navan and looks pretty smart.
Another day equally as good was last year when Anthony McCann had three horses running at Dundalk – two won and one was second.
What is the biggest drawback about being a racehorse owner?
One of the drawbacks is that there are not enough races for lower graded horses (see below).
In your experience, which racecourse in Ireland treats owners the best and why?
Dundalk is my local track and it has excellent facilities. But I particularly like Navan as the track is a real test of a horse.
The owners and trainers facilities are fantastic, there’s a lovely viewing area, you are always looked after, and taken up to your seat and to where to get your meal. The staff there have a very nice manner about them.
In the last 10 years treatment of owners has been improved but the standard of care must be more even around the country.
Flat or jump racing, which do you prefer and why?
I was always a National Hunt man. In my opinion people at jumps meetings communicate better, they share in the craic, there’s a great atmosphere.
I do take an interest in the flat, the classics. Anthony runs his horses at Dundalk as well as having National Hunt horses.
What qualities do you look for in a trainer?
My priority is someone who looks after the horses and has excellent training facilities.
I got to know Anthony through Oliver and now we have built up a friendship. He has an excellent strike rate and any owner can watch the training whenever they want.
What improvements would you like racecourses in Ireland to do?
Every track should provide proper facilities for owners and make sure they are given some attention.
How do you feel owners are treated when not having a winner?
You have no idea where to go after the race to watch the replay. If you’re not a winner, in the excitement of the race, you can often miss seeing how your horse ran. It’s frustrating having to wait until you get home to go through it again.
If there was somewhere you could go immediately after the race and watch the replays a couple of times.
What significance do your colours hold?
Well it has to be the blue and white of Monaghan, always associated with Oliver (Brady) of course and the shirt he wore.
How did your syndicate get its name?
Ballybay for drinking tae,
Monaghan for drinking brandy,
Castleblaney beats them all,
For eating sugar candy.
Oliver was always quoting this and other sayings and promoting Monaghan so we’re not letting that die.
When buying a horse, what do you look for?
I often go to the sales, taking a look around. It’s an interesting part of the process of racing. Anthony gives us advice on what he is looking for in a horse.
What horses do you currently have in training?
The Ballybayfordrinkintae Syndicate has three three-year-olds with Anthony. Jazzy J ran with promise, finishing seventh at Dundalk earlier this month. Aussie Dream has only run once back in May at Gowran Park and Flipomento hasn’t run yet. All three should be running before Christmas.
There are eight in the syndicate and with 12 shares in the syndicate there are four more shares open. Packages can be arranged to suit each individual. Horses are bought and there is a lease option also.
What’s next on the agenda for your horses?
With Aramon it looks like the Royal Bond is next on the agenda or a novice hurdle at Christmas. It’s pretty exciting.
The Supreme had another exciting horse, Myska. I have fond memories of her. She won her bumper at Clomnel and then a maiden hurdle at Thurles and then a novice at Taunton in 2015. She retired then has now gone to the breeding shed.
What would help to make Irish racing more competitive for the smaller owner/trainer?
Look after the lower graded horses. Exactly as there are opportunity races for jockeys who haven’t ridden a winner, a similar scheme should apply for trainers.
Let’s say, have two races a month which can only be contested by trainers who haven’t had a winner over a certain period and then have a finale at the end of six months with a presentation and maybe some kind of trophy.
That way you get owners into the enclosure who would maybe never get a chance to be on the winners’ podium. That’s everyone’s dream isn’t it and a lot of people are missing out on that.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of becoming a racehorse owner?
There are so many opportunities for people to get involved in racing through syndicates and clubs. You can get in for small money, move up and down in scale as you can afford to and everything is budgeted so as you know what you are in for and can plan accordingly.
Not many people can afford to drop 100,000 grand plus on a horse but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out.
I also have a few ideas as to how HRI could improve the promotion of racing to the general public.
I know some yards allow visitors in over Irish Champions Weekend but what about the rest of the year? Top yards on the Curragh used to have public tours as far as I remember. Can we have more opportunities like that for the general public?
Another promotion is to sometimes stage a meeting for free and get different people into racing. On an ordinary Saturday or Sunday there can be very few under the age of 50. There is a gap in promotion of racing among young people. It’s all go with student days and the excellent packages they get and then a fall-off.
At Dundalk you could throw some free tickets out in the pubs and businesses - it’s a market to be exploited.
In the longterm, who knows who might be enticed in to our sport and that can only be a good thing.
Paraic Ruth was in conversation with Olivia Hamilton.